Slow grower with a wonderful primaeval shape: Fern palm is a potential heirloom.
Colours and shapes
Natural symmetry makes Fern palm (Cycas revoluta or sago palm) a magnificent small palm. The plant regularly unfurls attractive leaves from its modest trunk that look like large green feathers. When fully grown, the leaves stand and hang around the core in a beautiful circle. Under the right circumstances, Fern palm can live a thousand years. It’s a slow grower, so it doesn’t need repotting more than once every three years.
Fern palm is actually a fern, but looks so much like a palm that it’s usually included in that category in the Cicadaceae family. These plants were widespread some 200 million years ago, but now only eight species remain, including the strong survivor Fern palm which grows in Japan and Taiwan. In the wild Fern palm particularly occurs around the equator in South-East Asia. The plant has been known in Europe since the 18th century, when it became a popular feature in conservatories and orangeries.
Fern palm symbolises a long life: the plant survives ‘the tumult of the years’ and keeps on growing imperturbably. In Asia it is one of the four ‘holy plants’ which are planted beside temples almost as standard in order to please the gods (the other three are red Camellia, white Camellia and Ginkgo).